Ufouria : the Saga


This little exploration platformer, originally for the NES, recently appeared on the Wii. I never owned a NES myself so I never had the opportunity to play obscure titles back then, but that is truly the nice thing about emulation.

Anyhow, so in the words of mcc whose recommendation I followed this looks and plays like “the horribly deformed child of Metroid and Hello Kitty”. You explore a small world in order to find your friends, once found you can swap to play as them at any time and use their abilities to reach new areas of the map. Standard metroidvania and rather lightweight on the exploration – it is very easy to find everything there is to be found in the game.

For a NES game, Ufouria is very nice looking. The animations of the characters are uncommonly smooth and give character to every creature you are controlling, the tilework is crisp and in some places it sports 2d scrolling. Controls are usually fairly good but tend to be a bit sluggish whenever the game’s framerate drops – which sadly happens quite often. Overall, the gameplay sometimes lack polish and feels uneven; enemies are placed at unfair positions at times and feel pointless at other times, certain design decisions only serve to make it more cumbersome in order to be thematically consistent… But held up against any other NES titles (except for the possible exception of Nintendo’s own) this is nothing out of the ordinary.

The game is fairly short and finding everything interesting requires little effort, so I do not really see myself playing this again… Although it is a very nice game and well worth playing through once.

Posted on Aug 25/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

/* */


A long while back I started planning a rather unoriginal metroidvania game, in part because I had nothing else to do with my spare time and in part since I have always liked the genre and wanted to try doing something with it. After considering what I really had to add to the genre I put it on hold until Lyle in Cube Sector inspired me to approach it in a new way that was still very traditional; instead of moving blocks around, though, my game would revolve around using steam and gas with different properties. I had to postpone this project, but kept working on it every now and then until I just recently finished something of a playable demo.

I give you Smoke:

It is a very short demo considering the time it has been in production, less than an hour for the experienced action/exploration gamer, but hopefully it has some value.

Download windows version

Download OSX (Snow Leopard) version

I did everything but the sound myself, so it does not compare very well to other games in terms of visuals – on the bright side, I like to think I have learned something about painting during the time spent working with this project. Other than that, working on this game simultaneously with other projects using the FT engine has given me a lot of insight into code pragmatism; the clearer the target you have in the beginning of a project, the easier it is to write clean code quickly. No surprise there, but what did surprise me was how much easier the code written with a single purpose was to maintain – even though it was never written to be extended in the first place.

Working on Smoke takes a lot of time due to the complexity and traces of the initial lack of direction still found in the codebase, but also because the graphics took a lot more work than my earlier solo projects. Feedback on this demo and my own employment situation will determine where I take it from here, but if there is one thing I have learned it is that I need to get more people involved if this is to go much further.

Posted on Aug 13/10 by Saint and filed under Homegrown | 1 Comment »

/* */

Starcraft 2 – Wings of Liberty


I play relatively few RTS games – few enough to view them as distinctly different – so I am mainly going to compare Starcraft 2 to Blizzard’s previous games. Which is not very hard it seems, since this is a true sequel where very little is changed. The main mechanic and most of the units are the same as in the first Starcraft, although there are a lot of subtle differences that make Starcraft 2 a completely different and more refined experience.

First of all, the troop selection is a lot more strategic and it is no longer possible to rush someone with the same army configuration every time. Some people complain about the acronym RTS as there is no strategy in incessant clicking, and the winner is always the quickest – true to some degree, but mostly in professional matches or matches where one player is severly outclassed. When playing a good RTS on a reasonable level, selecting the right units and using them in the correct manner is no longer something taken for granted and requires a lot of thought – this is especially true in Starcraft 2 where a small force can easily take out a sizeable army of units it is strong against.

Secondly, the campaign is very well thought-out. It doubles as a varied experience where no mission is simply “take out the base” and a clever tutorial presenting situations where different units are suitable. Most unit-specific upgrades are not available during missions but purchased in between and then gained permanently, a welcome change to repeating the same tech tree mission after mission but it does take the single-player experience away from the multiplayer somewhat. Making a more refined single-player experience is no bad idea, though, and Blizzard thought to include a series of more advanced tutorials describing different styles of play in order to broaden appeal.

What is sort of a disappointment is the narrative. I personally think this is kind of sad as Blizzard has always been about masterful CGI interludes and – for RTS games, at least – involving characters and stories. Starcraft 2 does not have a completely linear story but rather a set of paths you can complete missions from in any order, making it very disjoint in the mood it sets. It also tells the story rather poorly, sacrificing the believability of the world and characters to overstate everything in order to bring the point across… I get that it is supposed to be appealing to a large audience, but there are better ways of doing that.

All in all though, Starcraft 2 is to no-ones surprise an insanely polished and brilliant game.

Posted on Aug 03/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »